Thursday, August 26, 2010

Gaston takes the reins at CCHS

TROY --Ray Gaston never quite dreamed of becoming a head varsity football coach at the high school level, yet that is exactly his new title at Catholic Central.

Earlier this week, Gaston (pictured, right), who was serving as an assistant coach at the school, was named head coach at CCHS following the resignation of Carm Audino.

Messages left for Audino were not returned. Gaston declined to discuss the reasons behind Audino’s departure prior to what was to be his second season with the Crusaders.

“Personally, I didn’t think we had a problem,” said senior captain Alex Bruno. “It’s just getting used to new coaches. That’s it. I think we overcame it pretty well and I think we have a chance this year.”

“I’ll be honest, I was a little confused,” Rob Connors, a senior captain, said. “I didn’t know exactly what was going on. But we have a good coaching staff, we have a good team and we have people that know what they’re doing.”

Gaston, a Watervliet native, had spent 13 years as a head coach in the Plainsmen Junior Football League in Clifton Park and was looking, finally, to take a break. Four years ago, in what he figured would be his last season coaching for some time, Gaston took some of his players to a camp at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

There, Sam Marro, who was coaching the CCHS varsity at the time, told Gaston he had one open assistant coaching position.

“Sammy got me here before I got a year to get off and I was on his staff for a couple of years,” Gaston said prior to Thursday’s practice in Lansingburgh. “When Sam left, Carm came in and kept me on the staff.”

Now, the Crusaders have more coaches than they know what to do with. Nick Foglia, Mike Galeo and Bill Mitchell have been assisting Gaston this week. Dan Cole, the former quarterback for Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (Class of 2004) and the af2’s Albany Conquest, is set to join CCHS as an assistant this weekend.

“It came out of nowhere,” Gaston said. “Carm had a personal situation where he resigned. It’s a great loss. He’s a great coach, a great person and a great friend. We’re all missing him and we’re going to miss him.

“But we have a program and we have kids that want to play football,” continued Gaston. “These coaches and myself, we’re right back on track right now. We might have lost a couple of days, but we’re back.”

Catholic Central, which finished with a 2-6 record a season ago, has played to a 16-55 record since 2001. The school did not field a varsity team in 2002 after finishing 0-9 the year before.

Carm Audino, seen here leading a practice at Catholic Central High School last week, recently decided to step down from the position. (Photos by J.S. Carras - The Record).

The Crusaders’ last winning season came in 2000, when Pete Porcelli guided CCHS to a 6-3 record before taking the head position at Lansingburgh. The team has not appeared in a Section II postseason game since 1989.

"We’ve had to deal with a lot," said senior captain Anthony Marchese. "We're fine now and we’re all good. We’re looking forward to it. I think we’re better off for it, actually. I like where we are now and I like who we have here. Everybody is just as excited, if not more motivated."

Audino ran a primarily flexbone-based offense, which may be opened up a little bit with Gaston's wide background of experiences. The tight-lipped CCHS players and coaches wouldn't give away too many secrets, however.

"I have some of that stuff and a mixed bag of everything from the Sam Marro days to the Carm Audino days to the Ray Gaston days," laughed Gaston. "We’ll be all right."

At a football camp this summer, for the first time since his playing days at Watervliet High School, Gaston recently ran into his former coach, Joe King, the current head coach at RPI.

Standing on the Engineers’ massive, one-year-old East Campus Village Stadium field, King asked, “Just like Watervliet, huh, Ray?”

“We didn’t have a set of weights when I was over at Watervliet his first year there,” Gaston laughed. “He was rubbing it in my face.”

Consider Gaston the latest in a long line of former Watervliet student-athletes that themselves became varsity head coaches.

“A great deal of me being in football and doing all this stuff was basically because I admired Joe King so much from when he was my coach,” said Gaston. “He taught respect and he taught football. Those are two of the biggest keys, I think, in football. Discipline and respect.”

For my original CCHS training camp report, which appeared last week, click here.

Keep checking back on the blog for a training camp report posted every day between now and opening day of the high school football season on Thursday, Sept. 2. The schools will be posted in no particular order, so please be patient if you don't see your school right away.

Also keep your eyes open for our 48-page preview section - Kickoff 2010 - which hits the newsstands inside The Record on Thursday, Sept. 2.

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